Quickie: Samsung NX100 Review

Samsung-NX100-top A year or so ago I had a play with the Samsung NX10 and was unimpressed. Sure it had a sensor that most full-on DSLRs would be proud of, but it just didn’t wow me. DPReview called it “a good start”.

Now, Samsung have released the NX100. On paper it seems incredibly similar to the NX10. The same APS-C sensor, the same lens mount, similar size. But the difference feels like f2 compared to f22. The NX100 loses a built-in flash compared to the NX10, but overall it’s faster, easier to use, nicer to look at, and just lovely.

I really only had a few days to play with it, but it takes nice shots and the range of tweaks and functions would suit most pro-am photographers. The i-Function lens is a neat addition: press the iFn button on the lens, and the focus ring becomes a control that you can use to dial in changes to shutter, aperture, exposure, and other camera settings. Heaps easier than fiddly buttons on the back of the camera.

You can get i-Function lenses as a 20mm f2.8 prime, or a 20-50mm utility lens. The NX100 also fits all of the existing NX mount lenses if you have any.

RRP is a spendy $1,099, but if you want something more compact than a DSLR with many of the same qualities, it could be a good fit.

Couple of test photos:

Samsung NX100 Test Shots Samsung NX100 Test Shots

Review: Flip Mino HD vs JVC FM1

FM1 and MinoHDPocket video cameras are the device du jour for the YouTube generation. Wired Magazine saw fit to write an entire article based on the little beasts. Forging against the trend of ultra hi-def 300x zoom handycams with capacious memory, these pocket cameras take the approach that a nasty little CMOS sensor will do just fine, most certainly if you want to upload video of your kids to YouTube, rather than watch it on a 50 inch HD television.

While they look very similar on the surface, philosophically, the Flip Mino HD and the JVC Picsio GC-FM1 pocket cameras are different beasts. They both take “HD video” (720p for the Flip and a bastardised 1080p for the JVC). They both fit in your pocket. They both come with software for your PC that can upload video direct to YouTube.

So let’s skip the basics and get down to the differences:

Flip Mino HD JVC Picsio FM1
Memory “60 minutes” (well, 4GB) SDHC card memory. None provided.
Video Format 1280 x 720p / 30fps / 9Mbps 1440 x 1080p / 30fps / 12Mbps
Screen 1.5″ 2.0″
Still photos None 8MP “non interpolated”
Outputs USB, A/V USB, A/V, Mini HDMI
Macro None Manual switch
Software Flipshare Mediabrowser LE
Price NZ$349 NZ$399 (RRP)

But what does it all mean?

The Flip camera – the progenitor of the pocket video camera revolution – eschews all dongles and baubles, and focuses on the purpose of taking basic video. The FM1 on the other hand appears to be a descendant of JVC’s existing camcorder lineup, and therefore retains some of the functionality demanded by markedroids: stills, removable memory, HDMI out. You’d perhaps think that the extra features of the FM1 make it a better camera. I’m not so sure.

To start with, you’ll need to purchase a large SDHC card on top of the FM1 price before you can do anything at all. That’s going to add at least $50 to the price. And we can discount the still photo option as nothing more than a gimmick. There’s no way the stills from the FM1 are going to displace anything but the cheapest, nastiest point-and-shoot digital camera. Call me picky, but the addition of the stills mode and multiple video resolutions just makes the FM1 more difficult to use than the Flip. I want to take video, not fiddle with settings.

And then there is the software.


Flip have taken the time to construct a gorgeous, simple little application in Flipshare. It is a pleasure to use, and just works. You can edit up short videos, add backing music (I’ve used one of their tracks in my comparison video below), and upload the results direct to YouTube. I was pleasantly surprised that the application quite happily undertook several processes at the same time, namely rendering a video whilst uploading a different video to YouTube.

JVC have opted to use a scouring pad on my eyeballs, instead of including software with their device. Ok so that’s not entirely true, but the MediaBrowser LE package might as well be a torture device. It is horrible to look at, difficult to use, and not a patch on Flipshare.

Additionally, when you connect the FM1 to your PC, it presents not one, but three drives. As an engineer, I can understand they’ve separated internal memory, SD memory, and the software installer; but as a user, I don’t really give a crap. Compare these two explorer trees, and tell me where to find my videos:

Flip Mino HD JVC Picsio FM1
Flip Mino JD JVC FM1

Yes OK, but REALLY, what does it all mean?

Regardless of my opinion on how the devices look and behave, the proof is in the pudding. Apparently. So here’s your pudding, re-compressed down to 720p (watch it in HD). Parental advisory: may cause piña colada:

The JVC has more pixels to work with, but on the indoor shots it’s fairly obvious to me that it is over saturated and having trouble with noise. For the record, that cloth on the ornament table at 00:15 is not dark red. The colour shown by the Flip is much more accurate.

Both cameras suffer horribly from “rolling shutter”, visible at 01:00, but there’s nothing you’re going to do to improve that on these pocket cameras. I could be biased, but it does look like the Flip deals with it a little better.

What it all means:

We’re still waiting on official New Zealand pricing, but I’m guessing the Flip Mino HD is going to be cheaper, or most certainly not a vatload more than the JVC. As Chris mentioned in the comments, Noel Leeming has jumped the gun and is advertising the Flip at $349. So, unless you want something that takes kinda noisy, over-saturated video, my choice would be the Flip Mino HD.

Just give it to me raw!

For those of you interested in the raw file output of the devices, here are the links to download the first segment of the video (outdoor, movement).

Panasonic LX3 [High-End Compact Cameras Part 2]

Panasonic LX3I don’t know where to go with this. Every other review I read tells me that the LX3 is superior in most aspects to the Canon G10. It’s smaller and lighter (265g vs the chunky 390g G10), shoots wider (24mm vs 28), and has a faster lens (f2.0 vs f2.8).

The LX3 does low-light a bit better than the G10, because of both the f2.0 lens and the lower pixel count. They’re relatively on-par at base ISO, but if you do have to push the ISO up higher to capture the right shot, you’re better off with the LX3.

The LX3 is also absolutely gorgeous to look at – it puts me in mind of the old rangefinder cameras, and even has an optional leather case that really looks the part. It’s spoiled a bit by the protruding lens when you turn it on, but nothing horrific. The flash tucks away tidily when not in use, and also won’t turn on automatically when you have it closed. This is a Good Thing when you want to grab nice low-light images without the flash.

Despite all this, I just enjoyed the G10 more. There’s nothing that the G10 does that the LX3 can’t do: ISO, manual controls, exposure compensation. The difference is that the G10’s controls – the individual dials on top and the scrollwheel – make it so much easier to access those settings. It makes me want to take different photos, whereas with the LX3 I was tempted to leave it in auto mode. Who knows, maybe the LX3 takes better shots on auto, but it just feels like I have more invested in producing photos from the G10.

Short and sweet, but that’s about it. If you’re a stickler for photo quality over resolution, go study the charts at DPReview.com and make up your mind. If you want to have fun and a bit of knob twiddling, go the G10.

Canon G10 [High-End Compact Cameras Part 1]

Canon G10Digital cameras are perhaps the worst example of consumerist segmentation for the sake of it. On this page alone I count 25 current model digital compact cameras. Considering other brands and previous models, you have something like 300 cameras to choose from if you want to purchase a digital compact camera today. I imagine the selection of a camera from the middle of this range is purely random. Perhaps based on the colour, a special of the day, or the pushyness of a salesman.

If instead you select the “top” camera in the range, you can at least be sure that there are no compromises to make the camera fit into a “segment”. What you’ll find are switches and menus for every aspect of picture control, sometimes lifted directly from the DSLR range of the same brand. You’ll also get some interesting additions like extended ISO range or even a built-in neutral density filter.

In this two-part series, I’m going to look at two of the least disputed kings of compact: the Canon G10 and the Panasonic LX3. Both aim to compromise as little as possible while still keeping a reasonable size and internal lens. First up is the G10. Continue reading “Canon G10 [High-End Compact Cameras Part 1]”

Nikon D90 Quick Review

d90The Nikon D90 is a camera, apparently. I found it very easy to use, and I’m not even a regular Nikon guy. I love the way almost every feature has a dedicated button, and I could even get used to the idea of aperture and shutter being on dedicated dials.

I like the way the active AF points are highlighted. A large square is shown around the active points. This is in comparison to the Canon approach where the active points are lit up in red. The Nikon approach is much more visible. I did find the AF motor quite noisy though, which might be a problem if you’re recording video. Correction: you can’t autofocus when recording video, so AF noise won’t be a problem!

The size and weight are great for a prosumer camera. Not heavy enough to give you pain in the arm, but chunky enough to feel sturdy and stable. The grip is perfect for my manly hands.

The D90 has a neat party trick: it can record 720p high-definition video. Video will become more common in SLR cameras, but at the moment there are only a couple of cameras that can do it. Combining video with SLR optics can give you quite special videos. Sadly things can go a bit wobbly with the D90 if you pan the camera too quickly. So ironically the D90 video is best suited to static scenes.

More generally, modern DSLRs are raising the bar so high, so quickly, that we can sneak out shots that would normally take years of practice and training. The D90 is cut from the same silicone. With the range of settings, the limitless storage (memory chips are as cheap as – well – chips), and 4.5 full frames per second, you can just set the camera to exposure bracket and whale away on the trigger like a guerilla with an AK47. Grab yourself a copy of Adobe Lightroom for some post-processing fun, and I’ll guarantee you’ll find at least one amazing shot on that memory card.

I have of course completely ruined my ability to review DSLR cameras by starting with a full-frame beast. Even with the D90 being well under half the price of the Canon 5D Mark II, I can’t help but feel a twinge of sadness when I see noise on my photos at ISO 1600. I’m being horrendously unreasonable of course. The cameras aren’t in the same class, the noise from the D90 is barely noticeable, and the adjustable built-in flash means you’re hardly ever going to need that high ISO setting. If you have the money and you really need to take those lovely, clean, candlelit shots with a Nikon, you’ll want to look at Nikon’s incredible D700.

Of course, as I’ve said previously, if you want to get your camera-nerd-on to the break-o-dawn, you need to visit DPReview.com. You’ll find their D90 review, weighing in at no less than thirty-freaking-seven pages, right about here. See you in a couple of days.

Overall, if you’re in the market for a mid-range SLR camera, and unless you have a pile of lenses from a different manufacturer, it would be difficult not to choose the D90. The quality of the D90 coupled with the nifty video mode is enough to put it at the head of the class.